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Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel
For those interested in keeping up with events in Palestine/Israel, there is no better digest than VTJP.

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22 May 2008


Israeli forces open fire on rally against Gaza siege; one dead 17 injured
Ma’an News Agency 5/22/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A Palestinian man was killed and 17 others were injured on Thursday as Israeli forces opened fire on a rally protesting against the crippling siege on the Gaza Strip, near the Karni crossing east of Gaza City. Palestinian medics named the dead man as 22-year-old Abdul-Kareem Ramadan. Muawiyya Hassanain, the director of ambulance and emergency services in the Palestinian health ministry, said a number of people sustained serious injuries. Eyewitnesses said the Israeli soldiers opened fire on rally, hitting a number of protestors directly. The injured were evacuated to Ash-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. The rally started after the midday prayer and was organized by Hamas. Hundreds of Hamas loyalists took part.

ISRAEL-OPT: Critically ill patients from Gaza appeal to Israeli court
IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 5/23/2008
A Palestinian man lies in hospital. Thirteen Palestinians from the Gaza Strip have filed separate petitions to the Israeli High Court asking that they be allowed to leave the enclave and go to relevant hospitalsJERUSALEM, 22 May 2008 (IRIN) - Ahmed al-Baghdadi’s doctors said he must leave the Gaza Strip and travel to Israel to receive urgent life-saving medical care if he hopes to fight the tumours in his body. Rada al-Khadir, aged 22, needs to get treatment immediately, her Israeli doctor said, or her liver disease could prove fatal. Both patients have been denied permission to leave by the Israeli military. On 20 May - along with 11 other Palestinians from the Gaza Strip in need of immediate medical care in Israel, the West Bank and Jordan - they filed separate petitions to the Israeli High Court, asking that they be allowed to leave the enclave and go to the relevant hospitals.

Israeli forces kill Palestinian farmer in central Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 5/22/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A 62-year-old farmer, Salim Al-Bahaysa, was shot dead by Israeli forces which had invaded the area of Johr Ad-Deik in the central Gaza Strip on Thursday morning. Eyewitnesses told Ma’an’s reporter that Israeli military vehicles fired heavily at Palestinian farmers killing Al-Bahaysa. No other casualties have been reported. Al-Bahaysa’s son Ahmda was killed last Tuesday by Israeli artillery shells in the Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City. [end]

Hamas: no truce without lift of Israeli blockade
Middle East Online 5/20/2008
GAZA CITY - Hamas insisted on Thursday there would be no Gaza truce unless Israel lifts its blockade of the territory. "The Palestinian groups will not give a truce to Israel if Israel does not accept our demand to end the closure, open borders and stop aggression," Hamas official Ismail Haniya said in a statement. Haniya, a former Palestinian prime minister, said the Hamas delegation was returning from Cairo where Egypt has been battling to mediate a truce in Gaza between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel has made agreement to a truce conditional on progress in negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured almost two years ago by Gaza fighters in a deadly cross-border raid. Hamas wants some 450 Palestinian prisoners released from Israeli jails in exchange for Shalit, and insists the swap is an entirely separate issue from the proposed truce.

Syria rejects Israeli conditions for peace deal
Reuters, YNetNews 5/22/2008
Information Minister Muhsin Bilal responds to Foreign Minister Tizpi Livni’s demand that Damascus distance itself from Hamas, Hizbullah, saying ’the issue of peace, the peace process does not require prior conditions. ’ He reiterates claims that his country received commitment from Israel for return of Golan HeightsReutersPublished: 05. 22. 08, 18:40 / Israel NewsSyria said on Thursday it had received guarantees from Israel via Turkey for a full withdrawal from the occupied Golan Heights and rejected conditions put by the Jewish state for concluding a peace deal. Israel and Syria on Wednesday announced that they had begun indirect talks in Turkey, the first of their kind in eight years. But Israeli officials on Thursday said Damascus must distance itself from Iran and stop supporting Palestinian and Lebanese militants.

Palestine Investment perk: praying in Al Aqsa Mosque as Israelis still control everything
Palestine News Network 5/20/2008
Bethlehem / PNN- Engineer Ruba Khayat, Director General of the Jordanian Consolidated Engineering and Investment Group told PNN on Thursday that she was deeply frustrated with the outcome of the Palestine Investment Conference. However, she insisted on remaining in order to realize her mother’s dream of return and to see her homeland of Palestine. This was her first visit to Palestine and her first experience of investing here. But it was also her first time facing the Israeli occupation and the difficult realities faced by Palestinian citizens. She told PNN, "Before, there was no external investment in Palestine, and the internal Palestinian investors called for this Conference, for this opportunity. They first tried to call the meeting with Palestinian investors in the Disapora to identify areas of investment in Palestine. . ."

Israeli forces shoot Egyptian man on border
Reuters, YNetNews 5/22/2008
Body of Bedouin man shot dead while trying to cross border into Jewish state handed over to Egyptian authorities - Israeli forces shot dead a Bedouin man from Egypt on Wednesday as he was trying to cross the border, police sources said. At the Awja crossing point in central Sinai on Thursday the Israelis handed over to the Egyptian authorities the body of the man, named as Ayesh Suleiman Moussa, 32, they added. The Israeli-Egyptian border is a busy conduit for smugglers and migrants seeking work in Israel, mainly Africans. Egyptian border guards have often shot and wounded or killed African migrants but it is much less common for Israeli forces to shoot Egyptian Bedouin, the nomads indigenous to the desert peninsula. An Israeli official told Ynet In February that an unusual number of 1,000 African refugees had infiltrated Israel in the two previous weeks.

Israeli Arab driver critically hurt by guard at W. Bank settlement
Nadav Shragai and Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 5/23/2008
A guard at a religious girls’ high school in the West Bank settlement of Dolev on Thursday critically wounded an Israeli Arab driver, whom he claimed had attempted to ram through the school’s gates. According to the guard, the driver did not respond to a request that he stop and be checked. Police were investigating the incident in an effort to ascertain whether its motivations were criminal or terrorist. The school’s students are girls from difficult backgrounds, whom the northern West Bank settlement hosts and takes care of. The driver arrived at the institution just after 10:00 PM. The guard said that he refused to undergo a security check, and then tried to run him over. At this point, the guard shot the driver in the head. The driver was subsequently evacuated by an ambulance in which he was resuscitated, then placed in a helicopter which took him to a hospital.

Blast at Erez crossing thought to be part of botched abduction bid
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 5/23/2008
A truck filled with explosives blew up on the Palestinian side of the Erez crossing Thursday in the Gaza Strip. IDF sources said it seems the truck was supposed to explode on the Israeli side, but must have blown up too early either due to a technical problem or because it ran into poles near the crossing. A short time later, the Israel Air Force attacked a jeep fleeing the area near the crossing and heading toward Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces believes that the failed attack, and the jeep, were part of an attempt to abduct IDF soldiers. At 6:30 A. M. Thursday morning the huge explosion rocked the northern part of the Gaza Strip, as the truck loaded with about four tons of explosives blew up about 100 meters from the Israeli side of the crossing. Islamic Jihad said it and Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade cooperated in the attack.

Gaza crossings under attack: gunfire at Karni, suicide bomb bid thwarted at Erez
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff and Reuters, Ha’aretz 5/23/2008
A Palestinian man was killed and five others wounded in violent clashes that erupted Thursday afternoon between militants and Israel Defense Forces troops at the Karni Crossing from the Gaza Strip to Israel. The IDF said that hundreds of people had gathered at the crossing, some carrying light weapons and anti-tank missiles. Militants opened fire and hurled rocks at IDF troops stationed nearby. The soldiers returned the fire, leading to the Palestinian casualties. Also on Thursday, IDF troops operating in the Gaza Strip found a cache of weapons. including anti-tank missiles, hidden in a schoolyard in the Sajayeh refugee camp. Earlier Thursday, a Palestinian bomber blew up an explosives-laden truck on the Palestinian side of the Erez crossing on the Israel-Gaza Strip border early Thursday morning.

Israeli authorities close Sufa crossing
Ma’an News Agency 5/22/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Israel has sealed the Sufa crossing point in the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources said on Thursday. The sources told Ma’an that the crossing should have been opened as usual from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm to allow the delivery of food products and other vital goods, but the terminal was not opened on Thursday. The sources noted that 55 truckloads of food products passed through the Sufa crossing on Wednesday. Later in the day, the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades claimed responsibility on Thursday for firing a homemade projectile at an Israeli military post at Sufa. The military group said in a statement that the operation was an act of retaliation for Israeli atrocities against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian resistance attack IOF troops at Beit Hanoun crossing
Palestinian Information Center 5/22/2008
BEIT HANOUN, (PIC)-- The Palestinian resistance has carried out Thursday morning an attack at the Israeli-controlled Beit Hanoun crossing, northern Gaza Strip, in retaliation to the ongoing Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, where it detonated a truck heavily laden with explosives in IOF troops stationed there. Palestinian sources reported that the truck, which was packed with more than four and a half tons of explosives, exploded concurrently with the firing of home-made rockets and mortar shells on the crossing. Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad Movement alongside Al-Aqsa Brigades, the groups of Ayman Abu Jodeh, claimed their joint responsibility for this attack. Within its reticence policy, the IOF command alleged that the operation did not result in any casualties and closed the crossing after the blast.

Israeli forces apprehend 3 Palestinians near Jenin
Ma’an News Agency 5/22/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli forces on Thursday arrested three Palestinians in the northern West Bank village of Burqin west of Jenin, and stormed the nearby village of Arraba. Palestinian security sources said the Israeli forces seized 46-year-old Sheikh Ibrahim Jabir, a Hamas activist, 16-year-old Nur Addin Qabaha and 23-year-old Yousif ’Uwaidat after ransacking their homes in Burqin. Local sources told Ma’an’s reporter that 20 Israeli military vehicles raided the village and the nearby Burqin Valley. They stormed several houses, firing sonic bombs inside and damaging the interior of the homes. Separately, ten military vehicles raided Arraba and inspected several houses. No arrests have been reported.

Palestinian fighters ambush Israeli military patrol in central Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 5/22/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing affiliated to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), the National Resistance Brigades, claimed responsibility on Wednesday evening for ambushing an Israeli military patrol east of Johr Ad-Deik in the central Gaza Strip. The Brigades said in a statement that the group that ambushed the patrol fired gunshots and grenades at an Israeli military jeep. They affirmed the operation was in retaliation for the ongoing Israeli daily assaults against the Palestinian people. [end]

Palestinian teenager dies month after being shot by Israeli soldiers
Ma’an News Agency 5/22/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Palestinian teenager Khalid Abdul-Hadi died on Wednesday evening of wounds he sustained last month when he was shot by Israeli troops in the central Gaza Strip. Palestinian medical sources told Ma’an that Abdul-Hadi was hospitalized after he sustained critical wounds. He died on Wednesday at Ash-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. [end]

Al-Quds brigades claim targeted Israeli force east of Khan Yunis
Ma’an News Agency 5/22/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - The Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility for launching eight mortar shells at an Israeli force on Thursday, east of Khan Yunis. [end]

Israeli troops kill Palestinian protesting against Gaza siege
Sakher Abu El Oun, Daily Star 5/23/2008
Agence France Presse GAZA CITY: A Palestinian man was killed Thursday when Israeli troops opened fire on stone-throwing demonstrators protesting against the Jewish state’s crippling blockade of Hamas-run Gaza, a medic said. The killing occurred hours after a militant died in a failed suicide truck-bombing at the main border crossing between Israel and Gaza, where continuing violence is clouding peace efforts. Hamas, the Islamist movement which has ruled Gaza for almost a year, is insisting there will be no truce in the impoverished sliver of land unless Israel lifts its siege. Witnesses said about 2,000 people joined a protest called by Hamas to demand an end to the blockade, which Israel says it maintains to force militants to stop firing rockets and mortar rounds at the Jewish state. Most of the protesters stayed at a distance from the Karni crossing point just outside. . .

VIDEO - Palestinian killed in IDF attack in Gaza
Ali Waked, YNetNews 5/22/2008
Sources in Strip say army fired at Hamas members’ procession in protest of blockade. Military officials say soldiers shot at armed Palestinians approaching border fence - A Palestinian was killed and 18 others were injured Thursday after Israel Defense Forces soldiers opened fire at protestors taking part in a procession organized by Hamas, Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip reported. IDF officials said that the troops fired at several Palestinians approaching the border fence. At first, the army said, the soldiers attempted to disperse the people using crowd dispersal means, but at a certain stage the forces spotted a number of gunmen and fired at the lower part of their bodies. Earlier Thursday - Truck bomb set off at Erez crossing; no injuries among IDF soldiers

Suspect in settler’s murder detained in West Bank
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 5/22/2008
Palestinian believed to be part of terror cell that killed Ido Zoldan in November 2007 apprehended in joint IDF-Shin Bet operation -IDF forces and Shin Bet officers operating in the northern West Bank Wednesday night arrested Keis Kdumi, who is believed to have been part of a terror cell which killed Israeli settler Ido Zoldan in a shooting attack in November of 2007. Kdumi was arrested in a West Bank village and turned in to security forces for further questioning. Zoldan, a 29-year-old resident of the Shavei Shomron settlement, was murdered in a shooting attack on November 19, 2007, on the eve of the Annapolis peace conference near the settlement of Kedumim. According to the indictment filed against two other members of the terror cell - Abdullah Braham and Jafar Braham - who were apprehended in early December, the assailants drove near the West Bank. . .

VIDEO - Antitank missile ’found in Gaza school’
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 5/22/2008
IDF soldiers uncover weapons at school yard in Sajaiyeh neighborhood. Earlier, Palestinian man killed, 18 injured by Israeli fire during Hamas procession - Israel Defense Forces soldiers operating in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday uncovered a launcher and an antitank missile in a school yard in the Gaza City neighborhood of Sajaiyeh. Givati and armored forces of the 401st Brigade took part in the operation. The forces also shot and hit a gunman. Earlier Thursday, a Palestinian was killed and 18 others were injured as IDF soldiers opened fire at protestors taking part in a procession organized by Hamas, Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip reported. IDF officials said that the troops fired at several Palestinians approaching the border fence. At first, the army said, the soldiers attempted to disperse the people using crowd dispersal means, but at a certain stage the forces spotted a number of gunmen and fired at the lower part of their bodies.

VIDEO - Extraordinary punishments lead to rise in IDF soldiers’ complaints
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 5/22/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 daily feature for May 21, 2008. Last year saw a five percent rise in the number of complaints submitted by Israel Defense Forces soldiers against their commanders. Of 6,404 complaints that were filed, 2,736 were found to be justified, 1,076 were found to be unjustified and the rest are still under investigation. Most of the complaints did not come from highly sought-after infantry units, but rather from units that are considered less prestigious. In one incident, a female soldier complained about her commander, also a woman, who ordered her not to file a complaint over an incident of sexual harassment that she suffered at her military base.

Institute for Palestine Studies commemorates Nakba on the Web
Announcement, Institute for Palestine Studies, Electronic Intifada 5/22/2008
The Institute for Palestine Studies (IPS)has created a special on-line resource to commemorate the Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948." 1948: Sixty Years On. . ." draws on the Institute’s rich archives and its flagship Journal of Palestine Studies to provide wide public access to incisive articles, analyses, memoirs, detailed maps, and chronologies. These materials illuminate the events leading up to and culminating in the establishment of the state of Israel and the beginning of the Palestinian tragedy. Readers can download PDF versions of landmark articles, such as Walid Khalidi’s 1961 documentation of "Plan Dalet: the Master Plan for the Conquest of Palestine," and a rare memoir of Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser focusing on the cataclysmic events of 1948. Scholars, journalists, policy makers and educators will find this on-line resource timely and useful.

OPT: OCHA Closure Update May 2008
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - OCHA, ReliefWeb 5/22/2008
IntroductionMovement and access for 2. 4 million Palestinians living in the West Bank has been gradually restricted by the Israeli authorities since the beginning of the second Intifada in September 2000 through the implementation of the internal closure regime. (1) Physical obstacles are the key component of this regime: unstaffed obstacles (earth mounds, trenches, road blocks, road gates, etc), staffed checkpoints (full and partial), random or ‘flying’ checkpoints, and the Barrier. (2) These obstacles, form part of the security measures Israel has identified as necessary to protect Israeli citizens living both in Israel and in West Bank settlements. They are operated in conjunction with a variety of administrative and legislative measures which include, (but are not restricted to) the formal annexation of territory to Israel, the declaration of areas as ‘closed military. . .

Hamas: Gaza masses head toward the Mintar crossing
Palestinian Information Center 5/22/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- At the invitation of the Hamas Movement large masses of the impoverished Gaza people will be heading at noon Thursday towards the main gates of the Mintar crossing east of Gaza city in the context of the popular activities organized to break the Israeli siege. Ashraf Abu Daya, the spokesman for the Hamas popular work committee, invited all international and local media outlets to cover this event and to broadcast the real humanitarian tragedy experienced by the Gaza people. Abu Diya stated that the Palestinian masses would revolt today with all determination and steadfastness in the face of their besiegers even if they were killed after they ran out of patience, holding all participants in the siege fully responsible for what might result from the event. The spokesman underlined that the message of the Palestinian angry masses in Gaza to the Israeli occupation is. . .

IOA demolishes six Palestinian apartments in occupied Jerusalem
Palestinian Information Center 5/22/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation authority on Wednesday demolished six Palestinian apartments in occupied Jerusalem at the usual pretext of lack of permit, which is almost unobtainable. Large numbers of Israeli occupation police, border guards and special forces encircled the Tor suburb in eastern Jerusalem and blocked traffic in and out of it before bulldozers of the Jewish-controlled municipality of occupied Jerusalem tore down the apartments. The proprietor of four of those apartments Amin Al-Abasy was surprised with the measure. He recalled that his four-apartment home was built in 1996 and accommodates his wife and seven children. He noted that two of the 400-square-meter house were still under construction. Abasy said that he received a demolition notification a year ago and have appealed since then against the decision in Israeli courts.

Israel approves reunion of 152 Palestinians with their families
Ma’an News Agency 5/22/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an - Israeli authorities approved 152 applications of Palestinian refugees seeking to be reunified with their families living in the Palestinian territories, the Palestinian Authority’s Civil Affairs Department announced on Thursday. They said in a statement that so far 22,000 applications have been approved thanks to the efforts of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and head of the Civil Affairs Department Hussain Ash-Sheikh. The statement explained that the department has made significant progress towards reuniting children of Palestinian citizens who were born in the Palestinian territories who have reached the age of 16 without being registered. The announcement of the 152 names is a first a step towards ending the case.

Palestinian investor from Qatar cries upon returning to his homeland
Palestine News Network 5/20/2008
Bethlehem / PNN - Mohammed Barghuthi had dreams of returning to Palestine but like other Palestinians in the Diaspora he did not have the Israeli-issued identity card. And although this is a requirement for many, it still does not guarantee entry. But through the Palestine Investment Conference, for which nearly 500 visas were issues by the Israelis, his dream was realized. He received official approval. Although Barghuthi was indeed coming to the West Bank’s Bethlehem for the Conference, he found his dream of return. United Nations Resolution 194 does give him the Right of Return, but this is something that the Israeli government does not allow despite the contravention to international law, including the Geneva Conventions. Barghuti is an independent investor in the private sector residing in the Gulf’s Qatar.

More demolition orders issued in al-Khadr
Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 5/20/2008
May 16th, 2008 - On 9 May, Occupation forces issued 5 demolition orders in the village of al-Khadr, west of Bethlehem. The orders threaten four homes as well as a large water tank that accounts for much of the village supply. If the homes are demolished, a total of 52 people will be affected. The people of al-Khadr have been struggling to remain on their land since construction of the Wall began in the area. Home demolitions, especially near to the Wall, are a relatively frequent occurrence. The most recent demolition orders are no exception, where all the threatened homes fall near the Wall. One of the affected building owners Mohammed Suleiman Salah and his ten-person family have already lost their home once to Occupation bulldozers.

Life goes on under occupation outside of Bethlehem: demos in Gaza against siege
Kristen Ess, Palestine News Network 5/20/2008
As the Palestine Investment Conference is on the front page, warnings are coming from the Islamic groups and humanitarian organizations trying to protect Jerusalem that "the city is being ethnically cleansed. "At the same time Israeli forces opened fire with gas on a crowd of Hamas demonstrators in the northern Gaza Strip’s Beit Hanoun from Erez Checkpoint. At a demonstration against the siege in the Gaza Strip at the Sofa Crossing, Israeli forces killed one Palestinian and "injured 10s," as reported by eyewitnesses and the news channels that were allowed access. Another demonstration was held at Karni Crossing where tens more were injured. It was well known that the investments for the Bethlehem conference came well before the conference began, with Palestinian investors calling for the date after deals had been struck.

IOF troops kidnap Hamas leader in Jenin only one month after PA releases him
Palestinian Information Center 5/22/2008
JENIN, (PIC)-- The IOF troops kidnapped at night Wednesday Sheikh Ibrahim Jabr, 45, one of the prominent Hamas leaders in the Jenin refugee camp, just one month after he was released from the PA intelligence jails in Ramallah. Palestinian local sources told the PIC reporter that a large number of IOF troops stormed the camp, and surrounded and ransacked the Sheikh’s house before kidnapping him. In another context, the Palestinian families of prisoners in occupied Jerusalem appealed to all human rights and legal institutions to urgently intervene to put an end to the arbitrary measures taken by the Israeli courts against their sons. The Jerusalemite families stated that the Israeli courts issue unfair high sentences against their sons at the pretext of committing "treason" against the security of Israel, adding that one of the arbitrary measures is that these courts impose hefty fines up to $1,500 and sometimes more than that on their sons.

USAID regional director: not a bright future for Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 5/22/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - The US AID mission director said on Thursday that the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip was a major impediment to investment in Gaza. Speaking to Ma’an at the Palestine Investment Conference, Dr Howard Sumka said, "I think it will be very hard for significant amounts of business to be done with Gaza as long as the closure regime is in place. Every donor and every private business person has had a problem getting the raw material they need into Gaza and getting the finished product out. We’ve experienced it. The World Bank has experienced it and others as well. Under the current circumstances it’s not a bright future for Gaza, not immediately anyway." He said that USAID are still providing humanitarian assistance in the coastal sector, including providing food and medical supplies and equipment, and they are working with "moderate" non-governmental organizations (NGOs) "that are advancing peace agendas.

Deputy Secretary of US Treasury upbeat on outcome of Palestine Investment Conference
Ma’an News Agency 5/22/2008
US Consul General Jacob Walles [MaanImages] Bethlehem - Ma’an - Deputy Secretary of the US Treasury Department Robert M. Kimmit was upbeat on Thursday on the outcome of the Palestine Investment Conference. "Our view is that this conference has met its goal, and that is to send a message that there are investment opportunities in the West Bank and in Gaza, that they are here open for investment and that a good foundation has been laid," he said. He stressed the need for tackling political security and economic issues in tandem, but conceded that restrictions on movement within the Palestinian territories may hamper any potential investors. "Clearly investors are looking for a good return on their investment are also going to take a look at what the difficulties are," he said. "I think a very clear signal has been sent that the Palestinian territories are open to investment.

Bush sends high level US officials to Bethlehem conference
Ma’an News Agency 5/22/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - President Bush has sent a delegation of high level US officials and private sector leaders to represent the United States at the Palestinian Investment Conference in Bethlehem, May 21-23. The Presidential Delegation is headed by Deputy Secretary of Treasury Robert M. Kimmitt and the President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, Mr. Walter Isaacson. Kimmitt, who spoke at the opening session, reaffirmed that the establishment of a stable, prosperous Palestinian state is a U. S. priority. Kimmitt added that there is strong international consensus to work together to improve the economic prospects for the Palestinian people and he praised Prime Minister Fayyad’s Reform and Development plan, noting that the Palestinian Authority has already made “tremendous progress in creating an environment to foster private investment.

Residents and journalists agree: the agreements took place before the conference
Fadi Abu Sa''ada, Palestine News Network 5/20/2008
PNN -- It seemed that things were going well. Since the first moment in which Dr. Hassan Abu Libdeh announced the opening of the Palestine Investment Conference we learned that the conference had succeeded in attracting Arab and foreign investments to the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. And it was announced that 11 press conferences were to be held throughout Thursday to sign agreements worth millions of dollars in several areas, notably real estate investment, and many other areas of investment. These were, of course, deals already made. None of this happened in a day. A PNN editor interviewed most every local journalist in town and found that not a one thought a thing different. "This is a media event," one unnamed source told her. "Even the Israelis tried to get in on it." Hundreds of journalists from all Palestinian cities, representing various. . .

PIC official perspective: The Convention Center and Solomon Pools Resort, one of many CCC projects
Palestine News Network 5/20/2008
The Convention Center and Solomon Pools Resort, where participants in the Palestine Investment Conference (PIC) are meeting today, is one of the most strategic investments undertaken by Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC), one of PIC partners. It is located just south of Bethlehem, a short distance from the Church of the Nativity on the traditional route half way between Jerusalem and Hebron. Embracing several elements of rich Palestinian cultural heritage, the Convention Center sits by Solomon Pools, near the Turkish Murad Fortress in the middle of the pine wood covering this historic site. With its full range of high quality services, it is fully prepared to host the first Palestine Investment Conference and has completed all logistical and technical preparations in a record time despite operating in a difficult context -- the Center has been subject to extensive destruction. . .

ISRAEL-OPT: First ever Palestinian investment conference under way in Bethlehem
Shabtai Gold/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 5/23/2008
BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK, 22 May 2008 (IRIN) - Palestinian businesses have put over 100 projects on display at a first ever Palestine Investment Conference (PIC) in Bethlehem, hoping to raise nearly US$2 billion from the private sector. Over one thousand investors, mostly Palestinians and other Arabs, have come to the West Bank town of Bethlehem for the three-day conference which started on 21 May, to see what Palestinians have to offer, and decide whether it is worth investing in the local economy - and if that investment would be akin to charity or lead to financial gain. At least some deals were closed, businessmen said, mostly in the housing and construction sectors, seen as relatively safe; and plans for a new Palestinian city, the first to be planned and built in the West Bank since 1967, are likely to go ahead.

Israel to get Hamas answer on truce Sunday
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 5/22/2008
Senior Defense Ministry official Gilad to travel to Egypt, discuss lull with Intelligence Chief Suleiman - Senior Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad will be traveling to Cairo Sunday on the invitation of Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman. Gilad is expected to receive the answer of Hamas and the other Palestinian groups regarding lull efforts in the Gaza Strip and Israel’s demand that Gilad Shalit’s release be included in the agreement. Suleiman, who earlier met with Hamas and other terror groups, is expected to convey to Gilad the Palestinian response to demands made by Israel’s leaders. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, adn Defense Minister Ehud Barak have conditioned a truce on a complete end to terror from the Gaza Strip, as well as an end to Hamas’ military buildup and arms smuggling, among other things.

Hamas: No truce unless Israel lifts siege of Gaza Strip
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 5/23/2008
A bid by Egypt to broker a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel has faltered after the radical Palestinian group failed to secure a pledge to lift an Israeli-imposed siege on Gaza, Palestinian officials said Thursday. Last month, Hamas and other Palestinian factions gave their tentative approval to a cease-fire with Israel in an Egyptian attempt to mediate the deal. But Israeli leaders expressed concerns and outlined conditions for any possible truce deal with Hamas. Hamas leaders held talks with Egyptian intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Omar Suleiman this week about the idea of a cooling off period with Israel, but left Cairo abruptly Wednesday without announcing the much-anticipated truce. "We haven’t decided yet the hour when cease-fire begins," said Moussa AbuMarzouk, deputy leader of Hamas who led the group’s delegation to the talks.

Haniyeh applauds Qatar for sponsoring Lebanese agreement; hopes for Palestinian reconcilliation
Ma’an News Agency 5/22/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The de facto Palestinian Prime Minister Isma’il Haniyeh on Thursday telephoned the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad Ibin Khalifa and the Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Ibin Jasim to congratulate them on the historic agreement to end the political deadlock in Lebanon. The agreement was signed in Qatar on Wednesday after days of wrangling between the Western-backed government and the pro-Syrian opposition and includes the convening of a new cabinet of national unity and also paves the way for parliament to elect a new president. Haniyeh made his telephone call during a visit to the Qatari embassy in the Gaza Strip along with the de facto minister of health Basim Na’im, the secretary general of the de facto cabinet Muhammad Awad and the de facto government’s spokesperson Tahir An-Nunu. Two letters have also been handed to the Qatari ambassador addressing Sheikh Ibin Khaleefa and Sheikh Ibin Jasim.

Haneyya asks Qatar, Arab committee to find solution to Palestinian impasse
Palestinian Information Center 5/22/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Ismail Haneyya, the premier of the PA caretaker government, on Wednesday hoped that an Arab effort, similar to what led to the Lebanese agreement, would be made to resolve the internal Palestinian impasse. This wish was expressed in a message to his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassem during a visit to the Qatari embassy in Gaza. He lauded the Qatari efforts that culminated in the Lebanese agreement and called for similar efforts to reach a Palestinian national conciliation. During his visit, the premier reached the Qatari Amir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa on the telephone during which he briefed him on the Palestinian suffering as a result of the Israeli oppressive siege along with latest political developments and Hamas’s delegation’s meetings in Cairo. He also contacted the Qatari premier and foreign minister and hailed his efforts in concluding the Lebanese. . .

Fadlallah calls for ’deep’ Arab, Islamic dialogue
Daily Star 5/23/2008
BEIRUT: Senior Shiite cleric Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah said Thursday that the current period requires Arab and Islamic efforts to settle the remaining problems and complications, and praised Iran’s contribution toward reach agreement among Lebanese leaders in Qatar. In a phone conversation with Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Reza Shibani, Fadlallah stressed the need for Arab and Islamic countries to communicate and hold "deep" dialogue over Arab and Islamic issues. According to Fadlallah, discussions should tackle the issue of the Palestinian cause and ways to protect the Palestinians against continuous Israeli massacres, in addition to the suffering of the Iraqi people, which he said, "was caused by the American occupation of Iraq." "The current political period requires joint Arab and Islamic efforts to resolve lots of problems witnessed by Arab and Islamic countries," he said.

Graziano: UNIFIL’s role even ’more important’ after clashes
Mohammed Zaatari, Daily Star 5/23/2008
TEBNIN: Major General Claudio Graziano, commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), reiterated the international force’s commitment to fully carrying out its mission in South Lebanon. During a ceremony held in the southern town of Tebnin to decorate 323 officers and soldiers from the Belgian-Luxembourgian contingent (BELUBATT) with peace medals, Graziano said: "I would like to take this opportunity to stress that we, as UNIFIL, remain now as ever firmly committed to the implementation of our mandated tasks, in support of the people of South Lebanon and in close cooperation with the Lebanese Armed Forces [LAF]. ""In this regard, I would also like to express my gratitude to the LAF, which continues to be an excellent and valuable partner in the performance of our duties," he added. Tackling the issue of clashes between government and opposition supporters that. . .

Israelis see Syria peace as way to curb Iran’s influence
Ron Bousso, Daily Star 5/23/2008
Analysis - Agence France Presse - OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Peace between Israel and Syria could defuse some of the most explosive conflicts in the Middle East and weaken Iran’s growing influence there, Israeli analysts said. Israel and Syria, technically in a state of war since the Jewish state was born 60 years ago, announced on Wednesday that they had resumed indirect negotiations under Turkish mediation after an eight-year freeze. The surprise announcement followed months of reports of discreet peace overtures alternating with belligerent rhetoric. The Israeli-Syrian border has remained calm for nearly 25 years, but the two enemies challenged each other regularly in Lebanon for 18 years until Israeli troops withdrew from the country’s south in 2000. And while Israel has military superiority in the region, it considers Syria one of its biggest strategic threats.

Netanyahu: Golan pullout would put Iran on Israel’s doorstep
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 5/23/2008
Opposition leader and Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu warned Thursday that a withdrawal from the Golan Heights would put Israel on Iran’s front lines. Netanyahu convened the Likud for a special party session in Tel Aviv, in light of Syria’s declaration that Israel has committed to pull out of the Golan Heights and return to the 1967 borders as part of its renewed negotiations for peace. "Giving of the Golan Heights will turn the Golan into Iran’s front lines which will threaten the whole state of Israel," Netanyahu told party members. "If the words of Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem are correct, Mr. Olmert has committed to pull back from the Golan up to the shores of Lake Galilee, even before negotiations have begun. Indeed, this would mean unprecedented anarchy of politics and defense," he added.

Peace talks with Syria raise public ire in Israel
Jean-Luc Renaudie, Daily Star 5/23/2008
Agence France Presse - OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: The launch of indirect peace talks with Syria has caused a storm in Israel, where sentiments run high against returning the occupied Golan Heights, seized four decades ago. Premier Ehud Olmert has avoided mentioning the Golan but has drawn fire after hinting that Israel would have to pay a painful price for a peace accord. Israel and Syria announced on Wednesday they had resumed negotiations frozen eight years ago. They said the talks would be held indirectly, with Turkey acting as a go-between. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem claimed Damascus had received Israeli commitments for a full withdrawal from the Golan, though Israeli officials have been tight-lipped on the controversial issue. "We are ready to make substantial concessions to Syria that will be quite painful," Olmert told a gathering in Tel Aviv on Wednesday night.

Protestors interrupt Olmert speech
Aviram Zino, YNetNews 5/22/2008
Demonstrators storm stage area carrying ’Nation with Golan’ signs as PM speaks at Jewish Agency ceremony. Olmert booed as he arrives at event, tells audience: ’The most beautiful place I visited recently is the Golan Heights’ - Several protestors interrupted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s speech at a Jewish Agency ceremony near Jerusalem Thursday evening after storming the stage area. The demonstrators, who were carrying "The Nation is with the Golan" signs, were reportedly encouraged by the crowd on hand. Olmert was forced to stop his address, as the protestors reached within a few meters of him. The prime minister, who was booed when he arrived at the ceremony, told the protestors: "The most beautiful place I visited recently is the Golan Heights. Let’s put politics aside. "He later added that "we have no other country aside from the Jewish State. . ."

VIDEO - News / Olmert calls peace talks with Syria a ’national obligation’
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 5/22/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 news roundup for May 21, 2008. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert calls the renewal of peace talks with Syria a ’national obligation. ’Opposition MKs criticize the peace talks as a ploy to distract the public. New evidence emerges in the corruption case against the prime minister. Related articles:Olmert: Peace talks with Syria are a ’national duty’ Golan regional head: Olmert endangering Israel’s existenceFormer Olmert aide documented monetary exchanges between Talansky, Messer Also on Haaretz. com TV:Extraordinary punishments lead to rise in IDF soldiers’ complaints Gazans fear for their health as they turn to cooking oil to power carsIsraeli Arab weekly quenches sector’s gossip thirst with its own paparazzi. . .

Olmert’s Syrian lifeline?
Yossi Verter, Ha’aretz 5/22/2008
"There will be disgusting headlines, we are in for a rough stretch and we will all go through an ordeal, but there will be no indictment," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised his associates a few days after the Talansky affair broke. He knew and they knew that the indirect negotiations with the Syrians in Turkey were nearing maturation point. It was also clear to them that any move would be automatically tainted as a tactic, just as they knew that the main allegation against Olmert would involve the lack of "public trust and a moral foundation. "This did not come as a surprise to Olmert. The same was said about former prime minister Ariel Sharon. Sharon was questioned about suspicions that he received bribes amounting to $1. 5 million from South African businessman Cyril Kern.

Israel-Syria dialogue ’to continue’
Al Jazeera 5/22/2008
Three days of indirect peace talks held in Turkey between Israel and Syria "satisfied" both sides and will continue periodically, according to Ali Babacan, the Turkish foreign minister. The peace negotiations between Israel and Syria resumed after an eight-year freeze, with Turkey acting as a go-between. Babacan said on Thursday that "both sides were satisfied that the talks [which took place from Monday through Wednesday] in Istanbul resulted in finding a common ground". He said the dialogue will "continue periodically". Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, confirmed on Wednesday night that his country and Syria have been in contact for a year now. In video Al Jazeera speaks to residents of the Golan Heights"We are ready to make substantial concessions. . .

VIDEO - Olmert: Israel pursuing Syrian, Palestinian peace tracks simultaneously
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 5/22/2008
(VIDEO) ’Syrians know what we want, and we know what they want,’ PM tells visiting French foreign minister, adding that negotiations with Palestinians are ’serious and important’ - VIDEO - Israel plans to simultaneously pursue the peace negotiations with Syria and the Palestinians, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner during their meeting in Jerusalem on Thursday. The prime minister made it clear to the most senior French diplomat that Israel strives for an agreement with the Palestinians within the next year, adding that the talks between the negotiating teams – headed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and chief Ahmed Qurei - were "serious and important". As for the renewed talks between Jerusalem and Damascus, Olmert said, "the Syrians know what we want, and we know what they want."

Syrian officials: Talks focused on timetable for Golan withdrawal
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 5/22/2008
Al-Hayat quotes Syrian FM as saying that any peace deal with Israel must include full withdrawal from Golan Heights. ’This is not a prerequisite; it is our right,’ he says - Senior Syrian officials were quoted by London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat as saying that the renewed talks with Israel were aimed, among other things, to set a timetable for Israel’s withdrawal to the June 4, 1967 (pre-Six Day War) borders. According to the sources, the talks in Istanbul between Israeli and Syrian representatives were not direct and were conducted with the help of a Turkish mediator, who relayed messages between the negotiating teams. "Syria will not miss any real opportunity to achieve peace, as long as is does not come at the expense of the Palestinian track," a Syrian official was quoted by Al-Hayat as saying.

Report: Israel releases Syrian suspected of aiding Hezbollah
DPA, Ha’aretz 5/22/2008
Israeli authorities have freed early a Syrian detainee serving a 7-year jail sentence on charges of establishing connections with the Hezbollah-led opposition movement and defying Israeli occupation, media reports said Thursday. Mohamed al-Shamaly, who was captured along with his brother by Israel in December 2003, was released on Tuesday, the Syrian news agency SANA said, its report saying he had been treated brutally. Al-Shamaly was accused of contacting the Lebanese Hezbollah-led opposition and supplying it with security and military information. He was also charged with hiding military and security information from Israeli authorities. An Israeli court sentenced al-Shamaly to a seven-year term in February 2005. The report gave no indication why Israel released al-Shamaly before his term was over, but the move. . .

Rice: Israeli-Palestinian track most likely to produce results
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 5/22/2008
Bush administration officials were cool to an announcement by Israel and Syria that they have resumed indirect peace talks and made clear the U. S. remains focused on the Israeli-Palestinian track that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said is "more mature" and more likely at the moment to produce results. Rice’s brief three-paragraph statement did not address the announcement of Israeli-Syrian peace contacts, which the Bush administration has expressed reservations about in the past. Speaking to reporters later at a news conference with visiting British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, she said the United States is not opposed to Israel and Syria talking peace but that the top U. S. priority is forging an Israeli-Palestinian deal. "We would welcome any steps that might lead to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

MK Naffa claims political persecution over Syria visits
Sharon Roffe-Ofir, YNetNews 5/22/2008
Balad MK says talks with Syria prove continuing police investigations of his visits to Damascus are politically motivated, adds probes will not hinder his future visits to Syria"The publications confirming Israel has been secretly negotiating with Syria prove the legal measures taken against me are nothing more than political persecution," Knesset Member Said Naffa (Balad) told Ynet Thursday. Naffa has been questioned by the police several times in the past few months, in connection with several reported trips he made to Damascus. Israelis are forbidden from visiting Syria, which is considered and enemy state; Naffa, a Druze Knesset Member, had been questioned on suspicions of visiting an enemy state and contacting foreign agents. The MK has repeatedly claimed that his interrogations were politically motivated and that they would not deter him from visiting Syria in the future.

Moving mountains for the Golan
Lily Galili, Ha’aretz 5/22/2008
It’s a shame that U. S. President George W. Bush left our region before he had a chance to hear the reaction to his declaration in the Knesset that seven million Israelis are an inseparable part of America’s 300-million-strong population. According to a recent survey, 12 percent of Israelis support relinquishing their country’s independence and having it join the United States of America, as a 51st state. Thirty-one percent of Israelis believe that, in any case, the U. S. president has a lot of leverage when it comes to Israel’s foreign policy and defense decisions (this figure is just 10 percent less than those who attribute the most influence on these matters to the prime and defense ministers). Twenty-one percent consider Israel a "non-independent country," while 31 percent see it as "more or less independent." These findings, and many others, are the results of a major "sovereignty. . .

Without upsetting the president
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 5/22/2008
It all began on January 6, 2004, when President Bashar Assad arrived in snowy Turkey for a historic visit - the first by a Syrian leader since that country won its independence in 1946. Officials in Jerusalem were apprehensive that a rapprochement with Damascus would distance Ankara from Israel. At the time, despite substantial support among the upper echelons of the Israel Defense Forces and the Foreign Ministry for the "Syria first" idea - that is, giving peace with Damascus priority over seeking an agreement with the Palestinians - no one was holding his breath about resumption of the dormant Israeli-Syrian talks. The young Assad was considered something of an oddball, who was a tool in the hands of the Syrian old guard of conservative generals and advisers. Furthermore, the Prime Minister’s Bureau under Ariel Sharon was already beginning to devise its plan for "disengagement" from the Gaza Strip.

Israeli FM: Syria should sever relations with Hamas before peace
Palestinian Information Center 5/22/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, has said that Syria should sever relations with Hamas and Lebanese Hizbullah party and should distance itself from Iran before having peace with Israel. Livni, speaking to reporters on Thursday, said that Israel "wants to live in peace with its neighbors, but Syria has to realize that it should give up support to terrorism, Hizbullah and Hamas and of course (change) relations with Iran". Livni was speaking only one day after both Syria and Israel announced in two separate statements that they had started indirect peace talks via Turkish mediation. Syria underlined, however, that Israel had agreed to completely evacuate the Golan Heights that was captured from Syria in the 1967 war. Israeli premier Ehud Olmert announced on Wednesday that concluding peace with Syria needs "painful concessions" but would not explain those concessions.

Barak: Peace should be achieved from position of power
Aviram Zino, YNetNews 5/22/2008
Defense minister attends ceremony honoring IDF units, Military Reserves; says Israel, Syria have long way to go before reaching peace, adds both sides know ’they will be required to make painful sacrifices’Aviram ZinoPublished: 05. 22. 08, 13:37 / Israel NewsDefense Minister Ehud Barak commented Thursday on the renewed talks between Israel and Syria, saying both sides will be required to make sacrifices. Barak added that "the Syrians know concessions are a two-way street. Taking Syria out of the axis of evil is a primary goal for Israel. One must be realistic – peace can only be achieved from a position of power. Both sides know they will be required to make painful sacrifices… We still have a long way to go. "Barak spoke at a ceremony honoring excellence in the Israeli Defense Forces and the Army Reserve, held at the President’s residence in Jerusalem. President Shimon Peres, IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi and the military’s top echelon were all present.

VIDEO - News / Netanyahu: Olmert using Syria talks to divert attention from probe
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 5/23/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 news roundup for May 22, 2008. In this edition: Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu says renewed peace talks with Syria are a ruse by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to divert attention away from the probes against him. A four-ton suicide bomb attack is thwarted at the Erez Gaza-Israel Crossing. Chelsea coach Avram Grant’s father says his Holocaust experiences prevented him from accompanying his son to the Champion’s league final on Wednesday in Moscow. [end]

Sources: Israel never pledged full withdrawal from Golan
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 5/23/2008
Jerusalem never pledged to withdraw from the Golan Heights and return to the 1967 borders as part of peace negotiations with Syria despite the declarations of officials in Damascus, Israeli sources said Thursday in an interview with Channel 10. The sources also said that Jerusalem had initially intended to wait for direct negotiations to begin before publicizing news of renewed contact, but Syria had wanted the talks to be made public imminently. The sources added that a date has not yet been set for the next round of negotiations. Syrian Information Minister Muhsin Bilal told Al Jazeera television on Thursday that Damascus had received guarantees from Israel via Turkey for a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights and rejected conditions put forth for concluding a peace deal.

Israel sets new demands for Syria peace deal
Daily Star 5/23/2008
Syria said on Thursday it had received guarantees from Israel via Turkey for a full withdrawal from the occupied Golan Heights and rejected conditions put by the Jewish state for concluding a peace deal. Israel and Syria on Wednesday announced that they had begun indirect talks in Turkey, the first of their kind in eight years. But Israeli officials on Thursday said Damascus must distance itself from Iran and stop supporting Palestinian and Lebanese militants. "We received commitments and messages from the Israeli government and the Israeli prime minister that guarantee, via the Turks, that he knows what the Syrians want," Syrian Information Minister Mohsen Bilal told Al-Jazeera television. "He knows that the whole of the Golan Heights will be returned to Syria and that Israel will withdraw to the lines ofJune 4, 1967.

White House policies crumble as US allies make peace moves in region
Khody Akhavi and Jim Lobe, Daily Star 5/23/2008
Inter Press Service - WASHINGTON: "Things fall apart; the center cannot hold. "As the White House agenda for the Middle East continues to unravel, events over the past 24 hours seem to suggest that US allies in the region are determined to construct a new edifice based on diplomacy, with or without Washington’s help. Despite the efforts of President George W. Bush’s administration to isolate and defeat "terrorists and radicals" - as Bush himself put it in a controversial speech to the Israeli Knesset last week - US-backed local actors are engaging precisely with those "forces of evil." Indeed, engagement - known as "appeasement" in the neoconservative lexicon - is bursting out all over the Middle East; in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Iraq and between two nations that have existed in a state of "no war, no peace" for more than 40 years - Israel and Syria.

Pelosi denies Olmert proposed U.S. naval blockade against Iran
Barak Ravid and Amos Harel , and Agencies, Ha’aretz 5/23/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did not propose a U. S. naval blockade of Iran during talks with U. S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat’s office said on Thursday. Responding to a report this week in Haaretz, Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said the lawmaker and the U. S. delegation she led met only once with Olmert during a May 16-20 visit to Israel and Iraq. "During the luncheon meeting with Prime Minister Olmert, there was never any mention of a U. S. naval blockade of Iranian ports," Elshami said in a statement. He declined to comment further. Olmert has proposed in discussions with Pelosi that a naval blockade be imposed on Iran as one of several ways to pressure Iran into stopping its uranium enrichment program. Although the White House denied a published report that U.

Israel asks U.S. for 25 F-35 warplanes, at $80 million a unit
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 5/23/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak two weeks ago submitted a request to purchase 25 F-35 warplanes from the United States, at $80 million a unit. The request also stipulates an option to obtain 50 more such warplanes in the future. The defense minister also requested three to five C-130J planes, which are the most advanced model of the Hercules jets the Israel Defense Forces has been using for many years. The decision to purchase the more updated models comes after two years of discussion, and was recently included in the framework of the IDF’s multi-year plan, Tefen. According to the plan, Israel would acquire the first group of these fighter planes in 2014. Haaretz has learned that some senior defense officials have asked the Americans on multiple occasions about the possibility of supplying some of the planes even sooner than the target date, by mid-2012.

Israel to purchase dozens of stealth aircraft from US
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 5/22/2008
Visiting Lockheed Martin representative says Israel seeking to acquire F-35 jets, three Hercules planes; each stealth aircraft comes with roughly $80 million price tag. IDF expected to receive airplanes in four to six years - IDF shopping spree: Israel has submitted an official request to the United States government for the acquisition of F-35 stealth fighter aircraft, Lockheed Martin representative Bob Trice, who is currently visiting Israel, revealed Thursday. Israel is reportedly seeking to purchase 35 planes at this time and another 15 in the future, in accordance with the Air Force’s long term acquisitions plan. Trice said he expected the fighter jets will be supplied to Israel starting at the end of 2013 or early in 2014. Similarly to previous deals of this type, Israel is expected to integrate Israeli-made systems in the American planes after they arrive in Israel.

Obama promises ’unshakable commitment’ to Israel if elected president
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 5/23/2008
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Thursday promised an "unshakable commitment" to Israel if he is elected. The Illinois senator also said he hopes his presidency would help improve strained relations between American black and Jewish communities. The Illinois senator was speaking a town hall meeting at a synagogue in Florida. Democratic presidential candidates didn’t campaign in Florida during the primary, but Obama is focusing on the state now that he’s close to wrapping up the nomination. Some Jewish voters are turned off by his willingness to negotiate with countries like Iran and Syria. Obama stressed that he wouldn’t negotiate with the militant Palestinian group Hamas.

Erekat meets deputy Russian foreign minister
Ma’an News Agency 5/22/2008
Jericho – Ma’an – Chief negotiator for the Palestine Liberation Organization PLO, Saeb Erekat, met on Thursday with the deputy Russian foreign minister Alexander Saltanov. The Russian representative to the PA Sergie Kozov was present as well as the Brazilian envoy to the peace process Auro Berto. Erekat affirmed that the international community should exert every possible effort to force the Israeli government to stop all settlement activities, including what they call natural expansion. All the settlement outposts founded since 2001 must be disbanded, he added. With regards to the peace negotiations, Erekat pointed out that there is still a clear gap between the two sides regarding final status issues. According to Erekat, the Palestinians are insisting on imnplementing the international resolutions to the conflict, the Arab peace initiative, the Road Map plan and US President George W.

Russia approves Israeli’s extradition to Colombia
Roi Mandel and Reuters, YNetNews 5/22/2008
Supreme Court accepts request to extradite former Israeli army officer Yair Klein, wanted for training illegal paramilitaries - Russia’s Supreme Court approved on Thursday a request from Colombia for the extradition of an Israeli man wanted for training illegal paramilitaries. A Colombian court sentenced Yara Gal Klein, also known as Yair, in absentia in 2001 to 10 years in prison for training paramilitaries in the Andean country. A former Israeli army officer, he was detained in August as he landed at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport. He has said the Colombian military knew about his paramilitary training activities. "I have just been informed about the decision by the lawyer. I am about to die of grief," Klein’s spouse, Michal Bar, told Ynet. "The Russians can deport him to Colombia within a day or two, and this will mean a death sentence for Yair.

Health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan
Ministry of Health of Israel, ReliefWeb 5/21/2008
World Health Organization - WHO - SIXTY-FIRST WORLD HEALTH ASSEMBLY - Provisional agenda item 13 - At the request of the Government of Israel, the Director-General has the honour to transmit to the Sixty-first World Health Assembly the attached report by the Ministry of Health of Israel. - ANNEX: REPORT OF THE ISRAELI MINISTRY OF HEALTH TO THE SIXTY-FIRST WORLD HEALTH ASSEMBLY - THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE ISRAELI MINISTRY OF HEALTH AND THE PALESTINIAN HEALTH AUTHORITY BETWEEN 2007 AND 2008 - Overview - 1. This year marks 13 years since the signature of the Oslo Accords, pursuant to which responsibility for health and medical matters in the West Bank and Gaza was transferred from the Government of Israel to the Palestinian Authority (PA). The Oslo Accords and the subsequent Paris Agreement set forth, inter alia, the relationship between Israel and the PA with regard to health-related. . .

Investigators to confront Olmert with new evidence
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 5/23/2008
Police team to arrive at prime minister’s Jerusalem residence Friday morning for questioning session; during interrogation, investigators expected to present new evidence; PM’s associates: He’ll cooperate with police - Police investigators are scheduled to arrive at Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s Jerusalem residence at 10 am Friday for yet another question session in connection with the bribery probe against the PM. Investigators are expected to confront the prime minister with new evidence accumulated during the recent interrogations of Olmert’s close associate Uri Messer and businessman Moshe (Morris) Talansky. According to official sources, the new evidence incriminates Olmert, who is expected to face at least one more interrogation following Friday’s questioning session. Syria Talks - Netanyahu: Olmert using Syria talks to. . .

The investigation heats up
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 5/22/2008
Friday morning, two significant events are supposed to occur that could determine how the Talansky affair will unfold in the coming weeks: At around 10 A. M. , a team of investigators will arrive at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem in order to take "decisive testimony" from Ehud Olmert regarding the suspicions against him. Olmert will be interrogated, for the second time in two weeks, under caution. The investigators are expected to confront him with material that has been gathered since his previous interrogation. The investigators, led by the commander of the National Fraud Investigations Unit, Shlomi Ayalon, are due to confront Olmert, for the first time, with the incriminating testimony against him given by his former associate and confidant, attorney Uri Messer. The suspicion is that Messer served as Olmert’s "banker" for years, keeping in his office safe the cash American businessman Morris Talansky delivered to Olmert and to Olmert’s personal secretary, Shula Zaken.

Olmert aide documented Talansky transfers
Noam Sharvit, Globes Online 5/22/2008
Ehud Olmert’s former bureau chief Shula Zaken documented transfers of some $150,000 received from Morris Talansky in the years 2003-2005. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s former bureau chief Shula Zaken documented transfers of some $150,000 received from Morris Talansky in the years 2003-2005. The information can be made public after the lifting of the partial gagging order on details of the affair. Some of the money was transferred directly to Olmert in the form of envelopes containing dollar bills. No election campaigns took place during the period documented by Zaken. The documentation was fund on Zaken’s computer. Some of the sums are marked as having been transferred to Adv. Uri Messer. The records indicate that the transfers of cash continued until close to January 2006, when Olmert became prime minister. These sums are in addition to thousands of dollars Olmert received from Talansky in cash, in envelopes.

Olmert’s close associate questioned for hours
YNetNews 5/20/2008
Attorney Uri Messer interrogated by National Fraud Unit one day before prime minister’s second police questioning in connection with latest bribery investigation - Investigation continues: Attorney Uri Messer, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s close associate, was questioned by the National Fraud Unit for hours on Thursday in connection with the latest bribery investigation against the PM. Messer arrived at the unit’s Bat Yam offices Thursday morning and left just before 7 pm. Law enforcement officials told Ynet in the past that Messer provided incriminating testimony against Olmert. Messer’s lawyer, Attorney Zvi Agmon, told Ynet that "Uri Messer believed that all his actions were legal, and this was the version he gave the police. "Prime Minister Olmert is expected to be questioned by the police for a second time on Friday.

Sources: Not enough evidence to indict Olmert for bribery
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 5/23/2008
Despite significant disclosures in the investigation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s alleged acceptance of large sums from American businessman Morris Talansky, there still may not be enough evidence to indict him for bribery, say sources close to the probe. At this point Olmert is suspected of obtaining money by fraud, breach of trust, money laundering and tax offenses, but it is too early to see where the investigation is heading, they said. Meanwhile, police sources said Wednesday that they now have evidence that Talansky financed a number of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s private trips overseas. Talansky told the police that he knew the money he had given Olmert was not used merely to finance election campaigns but for private expenses as well. The investigating team has not yet established how much money Talansky gave Olmert, but believes it was hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Palestinian businesspeople vow to carry on despite occupation and siege
Ma’an News Agency 5/22/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinian businessmen, while critical of the ways Israel’s occupation has disrupted and sometimes destroyed their businesses, are a pragmatic, resilient group who wish to do business without the constraints of foreign rule. Ma’an spoke with four business figures at the Palestine Investment Conference in Bethlehem this week. More than 1000 people attended the meeting, which was intended to raise capital for private sector projects in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem. Even those who came from the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip were optimistic that they could both carry on with their businesses under the present circumstances, and expand them when crossings are opened and checkpoints are removed. Like other segments of Palestinian society, the people Ma’an spoke with were determined to stay in Palestine, and refuse to be quietly erased by Israel’s brutal occupation.

Report of the Director-General, Appendix: The situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories
International Labour Organization - ILO, ReliefWeb 5/22/2008
Preface - This year, in accordance with the resolution concerning the implications of Israeli settlements in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories in connection with the situation of Arab workers, adopted by the International Labour Conference at its 66th Session (1980), I again sent a high-level mission to Israel, the occupied Arab territories, the Syrian Arab Republic, and the Arab Labour Organization and the League of Arab States in Cairo. Once again, the delegation enjoyed the full cooperation of all concerned parties, for which I am very grateful. It reaffirms the broad support to the values embodied by the ILO in situations of conflict. The ILO mission held in-depth discussions with a wide range of interlocutors from the Palestinian Authority and employers’ and workers’ organizations in the occupied Arab territories, constituents in Israel and in the Syrian Arab Republic,. . .

New ILO report on the situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories
International Labour Organization - ILO, ReliefWeb 5/22/2008
GENEVA (ILO News) - The annual report of the International Labour Office (ILO) on the situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories depicts a much degraded employment and labour situation showing that the plight of the Palestinian people has deteriorated alarmingly in a number of respects (1). ‘Working poverty is rising, genuine employment is declining, and frustration is growing’, the report says. According to the report, only one person of working age (15 years and above) in three living in the occupied Arab territories was employed for all or part of the time, with unemployment hovering above 20 per cent. Over 80 per cent of the population in Gaza is now dependent on food aid as a result of the severe economic siege imposing a closing of all crossings save essential humanitarian supplies.

Hundreds of Palestinians protest in front of flour stores in Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 5/22/2008
Nablus - Ma’an - Hundreds of citizens prevented trucks from transferring allegedly ’inedible’ flour from Nablus to Jenin on Thursday morning by protesting in front of the flour stores in Az-Zuyout Street, west of Nablus. Citizens have demanded the distribution of flour in Nablus as well as other cities. The Palestinian Ministry of Health had claimed that the 4,000 tons of flour are "inedible. "This was disproved by the laboratory testing. The same brand of flour was distributed across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip but not to the city of Nablus. Nablus citizens wondered why the flour was distributed to all other regions of the West Bank if it is inedible. One citizen said he had used the flour two months ago. Shaher Sa’ed, chief of the National and Islamic Institutions Committees in Nablus, said that the main goal of the protest was to help people gain access to cheap , especially in Nablus city where 27,000 people are unemployed.

Egypt wants gas price hike
Lior Baron, Globes Online 5/22/2008
Global gas prices have risen sharply since since Israel Electric Corp. signed its agreement with EMG. "Reuters" quotes Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif as saying that Egypt has informed Israel that it intends to raise the price of the natural gas it supplies to Israel. The surprising statement comes just two weeks after Egypt began commercial supplies of natural gas to Israel. Ministry of National Infrastructures director general Hezi Kugler and Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) chiefs recently held talks with the Egyptians on raising the quantities of gas supplied to the utility. The Egyptians made it clear during the talks that they intended to raise prices substantially. It is not yet clear whether this will affect the existing contract between IEC and Egypt. IEC chairman Moti Friedman was due to leave for Egypt today, but his trip could be postponed for a few days.

Gov’t to discuss expanding desalination
Dalia Tal and Lior Baron, Globes Online 5/22/2008
Benjamin Ben-Eliezer will propose boosting seawater desalination to 750 million cubic meters a year. The cabinet is due to hold another emergency discussion on the water crisis at next Sunday’s meeting. Minister of National Infrastructures Benjamin Ben-Eliezer is scheduled to submit a plan to boost seawater desalination from 500 million cubic meters a year to 750 million. At a ceremony to mark the securing of financing for the Hadera desalination facility, Ben-Eliezer said the proposal would cost NIS 2 billion over the next five years. The proposal includes the construction of two more 100 million cubic meter a year desalination facilities, one byMekorot National Water Company unit Mekorot Initiatives and Development Ltd. and the other by the private sector at Soreq. He added that the Soreq facility’s output might be doubled to 200 million cubic meters a year.

Shekel-dollar rate at 11-year low
Zeev Klein, Globes Online 5/22/2008
Economists are telling the Bank of Israel not to raise the interest rate by more than 0. 25% for June. Expectations of a 25-50 basis point interest rate by Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer next week, combined with expectations of a breakthrough in peace talks with Syria, have pushed the shekel-dollar exchange rate to an 11-year low. In inter-bank trading this morning, the shekel-dollar exchange rate fell 1. 3% from yesterday’s representative rate to NIS 3. 312/$, and the shekel-euro exchange rate fell 0. 9% to NIS 5. 295/€. By mid-afternoon, the shekel-dollar exchange rate was up to NIS 3. 336/$ and the shekel-euro exchange rate was up to NIS 5. 297/€. The shekel-dollar exchange rate fell 1. 5% in the past two days, and is down 4. 3% since April 27. Daily trading volumes range from $3. 9 billion to $5.

Output strong in first quarter
Zeev Klein, Globes Online 5/22/2008
Industrial output rose by an annualized 9% in January-March. Industrial output rose by an annualized 9% in the first quarter of 2008, after rising by an annualized 10. 7% in the fourth quarter of 2007, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported today. However, the number of industrial employees rose by just 1%, compared with 2% in the preceding quarter. Output in high-tech sectors (electronics, computers, pharmaceuticals, avionics, and control and monitoring equipment) rose by an annualized 11% in the first quarter after rising 14. 3% in the preceding quarter. The number of high-tech employees rose by an annualized 2. 3% in January-March after rising 3. 7% in the preceding quarter. Output in mixed-low technology industries (rubber, mining and quarrying, plastics, metal products and jewelry) rose by an annualized 12.

Fischer: Education system under-achieving despite spending
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 5/22/2008
"A fresh approach is needed in the field of higher education. Israel’s brain drain gives particular cause for concern." "Despite the fact that the government spends a relatively large amount on education, students’ achievements are relatively poor. In other words, Israel’s education system is not efficient," said Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer today at the graduation ceremony at Open University. Fischer told the graduates, "Nothing is more crucial to Israel’s future than education. In the long run, education is as important as the country’s security and geopolitical situation. The reasons are well known. Israel has hardly any natural resources, apart from human capital, i. e. , its citizens’ talents and initiative, and these must be nurtured constantly. Thus, and only thus, will be able to maintain and increase Israel’s qualitative advantage.

Palestinians and Israelis come together to lose weight, make peace
Reuters, Ha’aretz 5/23/2008
A Slim Peace - There’s the weekly weigh-in, the tips on healthy snacking and the chit-chat between women about unruly kids or errant husbands. But this is a slimming group with a difference: half its members are Palestinian, half are Israeli and the aim is to foster dialogue, through a common battle with weight. "I never felt good about myself and my body, and that’s something that women all over the world struggle with," said Yael Luttwak, an American-born Israeli who started the groups. "I thought this would be a great way to bring together women who wouldn’t normally meet each other." Israelis and Palestinians around Jerusalem are separated by the West Bank barrier and a network of army-guarded checkpoints. Decades of conflict have entrenched mutual suspicion and ordinary people from across the divide rarely get the chance to sit down and swap stories, let alone form friendships.

Berri summons MPs to presidential election on Sunday
Hussein Abdallah, Daily Star 5/23/2008
BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri on Thursday scheduled a Parliament session to elect the commander of Lebanese Armed Forces General Michel Suleiman as president at 5 p. m. on Sunday, as key Arab and international figures prepared to head to Beirut to attend the session. Among the figures expected to attend are Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, Arab League chief Amr Moussa, European Union Foreign Policy Commissioner Javier Solana and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. UN Chief Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were also among the expected guests, according to local media reports. Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader MP Michel Aoun contacted Suleiman on Monday to congratulate him ahead of Sunday’s session. "I entrust you with this delicate responsibility," Aoun reportedly told Suleiman, whose election would end a six-month presidential vacuum, making the army commander Lebanon’s 12th president.

UN Security Council backs Lebanon peace deal
Reuters, YNetNews 5/22/2008
US, UK reject view that show of force by Hizbullah in this month’s fighting increased its power, despite greater influence it gained in country’s cabinet -The UN Security Council on Thursday welcomed a Lebanese peace deal brokered by Qatar, an agreement that may have averted a new civil war in the Middle East. The council said it "welcomes and strongly supports the agreement reached in Doha. . . which constitutes an essential step towards the resolution of the current crisis, the return to normal functioning of Lebanese democratic institutions, the complete restoration of Lebanon’s unity and stability. "In the nonbinding statement, the council also urged the parties to implement all aspects of the agreement.

Life returns to Beirut’s streets
Al Jazeera 5/22/2008
Restaurant owners in Lebanese capital have reopened for business after the opposition ended an 18-month protest that had turned the area into a virtual ghost town. Workers cleaned windows and trucks delivered supplies after the Hezbollah-led opposition ordered that tent camps in the city centre be dismantled. The order came after a deal was agreed in Qatar on Wednesday with the Western-backed government. A festive mood took hold in Beirut, as thousands of balloons were released, and cafes teemed with people celebrating the end of the sit-in that had choked the heart of the city since December 2006. "Today is cause for celebration," said Hassan Jaffal, 31, who manages Klub’s restaurant, as the last of the tents were being removed.

History in the making for Hezbollah
Sami Moubayed, Asia Times 5/23/2008
DAMASCUS - British statesman Sir Winston Churchill once said, "History will be kind to me for I intend to write it. "On another occasion, he said, "Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed." These two quotes came to my mind, as I imagined Hasan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah, seated somewhere in Beirut, watching his allies and opponents hammer out a deal in Doha - to his favor - on Wednesday. He must have been a very happy man because all of the Doha resolutions were almost tailor-made to Nasrallah’s liking. Nasrallah finally got what he had been asking for, mainly a greater say for the opposition in the Lebanese government, and the ability to veto any resolution that runs against the interests of Hezbollah. True, no early parliamentary elections are going to happen (as Hezbollah had requested) to oust the parliamentary majority of Saad al-Hariri, but the entire issue of Hezbollah and its arms was glossed over at the Doha meeting.

Iraqi troops move deeper into Sadr City as US kills eight civilians
Amal Jayasinghe, Daily Star 5/23/2008
Agence France PresseBAGHDAD: Iraqi troops backed by tanks tightened their grip on Baghdad’s Shiite stronghold of Sadr City on Thursday after a truce ended weeks of deadly street fighting between US troops and militiamen. Thousands of soldiers in tanks, armored cars and trucks moved deep into the impoverished district in northeastern Baghdad, witnesses said. Convoys of Soviet-era tanks and armored cars were seen rumbling along dusty and crowded streets and moving into narrow alleyways, meeting no resistance from the anti-American Mehdi Army militia which had controlled the area. Children were seen offering water to soldiers in the scorching summer heat. There were similar scenes on Tuesday when troops made their initial foray into Sadr City which had been off limits to them for two months while US troops battled supporters of the Mehdi Army, lead by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Iraqi journalists say American soldier killed cameraman
Daily Star 5/23/2008
Two Iraqi journalists were killed in separate incidents in Baghdad and the restive province of Diyala on Wednesday, police and their employers said on Thursday. Wissam Ali Ouda, a reporter for private television station Afaq, was killed by a sniper as he was heading home in the Al-Obeidi district of northeastern Baghdad, his editor in chief Khazaal Ghazi told AFP. The incident occurred as US troops battled what they claimed were Shiite militants backed by Iran, killing 11 of them, in the district which lies near the Shiite bastion of Sadr City. Iraq’s Association for the Defense of Journalists said because of the fighting, Ouda’s body lay in the street for three hours before it could be recovered. Afaq belongs to the Shiite Dawa party of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Colleagues of Ouda said he was shot dead by US soldiers.

IRAQ: Ministry issues drought warning
Karl Musser, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 5/23/2008
A map showing the passages of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates through Iraq -BAGHDAD, 22 May 2008 (IRIN) - Iraq is suffering from water shortages that could lead to widespread drought as a result of the water policies of neighbouring countries and an unusually dry winter, the Iraqi Water Resources Ministry has said in a statement. "The shortage of rain, which last winter was 30 percent of what it was in previous years, has led to an obvious impact on water levels in the Tigris and Euphrates and their tributaries," the Ministry said. Iraq’s total water store in reservoirs and lakes is currently 22. 07 billion cu. m. - down from the pervious year by 9. 19 billion cu. m. , it said. Iraqi officials have accused Syria, Turkey and Iran of either building dams on the Tigris and Euphrates or changing the course of tributaries leading to Iraq, and the government is dispatching official delegations to these countries next week to discuss the problem.

FBI interrogation warning ’ignored’
Al Jazeera 5/21/2008
Senior Bush administration officials ignored warnings from the FBI over interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo Bay and in Iraq and Afghanistan, a new US government report says. The FBI clashed with the Pentagon and the CIA over techniques which included the use of dogs and sexual provocation, according to the US justice department report. The justice department report released this week said the FBI and justice department raised concerns with the National Security Council and with officials at Guantanamo Bay. It admits that FBI agents did "use techniques that would not normally be permitted in the United States or participate in interrogations during which such techniques were used by others", but said they did so "in only a few instances".

McCain rejects pastor’s support after ’God sent Hitler’ comment
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 5/23/2008
Republican presidential candidate John McCain has rejected the endorsement of an influential Texas televangelist criticized for his anti-Catholic views. John Hagee, the Texas preacher, withdrew his endorsement at the same time. McCain issued a statement after audio surfaced in which Hagee said "God sent Adolf Hitler to help Jews reach the promised land." McCain said in a statement: "Obviously, I find these remarks and others deeply offensive and indefensible, and I repudiate them. I did not know of them before Reverend Hagee’s endorsement, and I feel I must reject his endorsement as well." Hagee also issued a statement saying he was tired of baseless attacks and he was removing himself from any active role in the 2008 campaign.


Israel ’committing memorycide’
Ilan Pappe, Al Jazeera, Palestine Monitor 5/22/2008
      As part of ’s coverage of the anniversary of the creation of Israel and the Palestinian ’Nakba’, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe reflects upon the events of 1948 and how they led to 60 years of division between the Israelis and Palestinians.
     Between February, 1948 and December,1948 the Israeli army systematically occupied the Palestinian villages and towns, expelled by force the population and in most cases also destroyed the houses, looted their belongings and took over their material and cultural possessions. This was the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
     During the ethnic cleansing, wherever there was resistance by the population the result was a massacre. We have more than 30 cases of such massacres where a few thousand Palestinians were massacred by the Israeli forces throughout the operation of the ethnic cleansing.
     The Israeli army became a bit tired toward the end of the operation and the Palestinian villages became more aware of what was awaiting them and therefore in the Upper Galilee the Israeli army did not succeed in expelling all of the villages. This is why today we have what we call the Arab-Israelis or Israeli-Arabs.

Critically ill patients from Gaza appeal to Israeli court

IRIN, Electronic Intifada 5/22/2008
      JERUSALEM, 22 May (IRIN) - Ahmed al-Baghdadi’s doctors said he must leave the Gaza Strip and travel to Israel to receive urgent life-saving medical care if he hopes to fight the tumours in his body. Rada al-Khadir, aged 22, needs to get treatment immediately, her Israeli doctor said, or her liver disease could prove fatal.
     Both patients have been denied permission to leave by the Israeli military. On 20 May -- along with 11 other Palestinians from the Gaza Strip in need of immediate medical care in Israel, the West Bank and Jordan -- they filed separate petitions to the Israeli high court, asking that they be allowed to leave the enclave and go to the relevant hospitals.
     In an affidavit obtained by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR), Baghdadi said his egress was made conditional on his willingness to collaborate with the Israeli General Security Services (GSS).

A Nakba inherited

Rami Almeghari writing from occupied Gaza Strip, Electronic Intifada 5/21/2008
      At the southernmost area of the Gaza Strip, where the Philadelphia route separates the coastal enclave from Egypt, there are scores of knocked down buildings. The destruction dates back to 2002, when Israeli army bulldozers demolished the houses of the Palestinian inhabitants of this border line.
     Among the houses that used to stand here was that of Ali Shaath, a 75-year-old Palestinian refugee from the Beer al-Saba’ village of historical Palestine, the current site of the Israeli town of Beer Sheva.
     Ali’s 39-year-old son, Marwan Ali Shaath, relayed the story of what he called "a Nakba [catastrophe] of my own, other than that my father had endured in 1948."
     "Lucky me, my father lived two Nakbas, but I only lived one, maybe because I am younger. Or maybe I will be forced to live one more Nakba, who knows," said Marwan satirically.
     "Our family house was placed exactly here before it was knocked down in 2002 by the Israeli army bulldozers," Marwan said, pointing at the ruins of a two-story building, home to all members of Ali’s family.

Acknowledging the Tragedy

Raja Shehadeh, MIFTAH 5/22/2008
      I had always heard from my family that the reason my aunt, Mary Kawar, stayed in Acre in 1948 was because her youngest daughter, Amal, had contracted typhoid. However, 60 years later, I read a reference to a 1948 dispatch sent by the International Committee of the Red Cross from Palestine that described a sudden typhoid epidemic in Acre. It hinted at the likelihood that Jewish militias had poisoned the Acre water supply -- an early act of biological warfare in our region. It was then that I realized that my cousin’s illness was not a singular event.
     I grew up hearing about what my own family lost in Jaffa, the coastal city from which Jewish militias drove them in 1948. There were occasional references to Deir Yassin -- where more than 100 unarmed Palestinian villagers were massacred -- and the role it played in the psychological war against the Palestinians, who fled fearing for their lives.
     But, after the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in 1967 I began to block out that earlier tragedy. My energy was consumed by activism against the Israeli settlement project in the West Bank, where I live. It was only after reading the newly published material by Israeli historians -- using the recently-opened Israeli archives -- that a new cycle of confrontation with Palestinian history began for me.

Israel’s Identity War

Caelum Moffatt, MIFTAH 5/22/2008
      This picture is one of many murals found painted on a wall close to theBeit Romano settlement in the Jewish H2 area of Hebron. The fresco isan integral part of a larger group that colorfully illustrates the historyand prospective future of the Jewish people from the perspective of the600-strong settler inhabitants in the ancient city, situated in the WestBank, and is the supposed resting place of Abraham – the father ofJudaism, Christianity and Islam.
     This particular decoration depicts a point in time when the third temple has been built and the people are overjoyed with peace and prosperity which subsequently has led to the manifestation of the Messiah. However, the most intriguing aspect of this prophetic visual display of art is the large character at the top, proudly waving what seems to be an Israeli flag but which is in fact the orange flag representing the settler element of Jewish society, a demographic of religious Zionists intent on reclaiming their biblical lands, increasingly frustrated with the secular Israeli government and any subtle insinuation that the West Bank settlements [Judea and Samaria] may be evacuated for the sake of a lasting peace with Palestinians. Instead, the crown in the middle of the Star of David on the flag signifies the Kingdom of Judea and its restoration.

Ni’lin: Palestinians begin the long, non-violent struggle against the Wall

Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 5/20/2008
      Israeli military responds with unprovoked aggression
     The road to peace is continually broken by walls.
     The Israeli military has commenced building a new section of the Wall through the town of Ni’lin, roughly eighteen kilometers west of Ramallah. Peaceful demonstrations halted construction on this portion of the Wall three years ago, but now the Israeli authorities have returned, pushing the proposed site of the Wall over a hill, further away from the town.
     Even though this newly-designated spot is some distance from the town, the Wall will still cut into Palestinian territory, some three kilometers inside the Green Line. Eighty percent of the Wall is being, and has been built inside the Green Line, slicing up to twenty-two kilometers into the West Bank in the case of the Ariel settlement fore example.

On the Nakba

Ahmad Qurei, Middle East Online 5/20/2008
      Six decades have passed and the painful memory of the great historic transformational event, termed "the Nakba," recurs anew.
     We recall now, with deep sadness and agony, the sad memory of that major catastrophe, which befell the Palestinian people in 1948, committed by a premeditated Zionist scheme, with unlimited support and flagrant collusion by the colonialist powers which were in hegemony over the world at the time.
     Despite the passing of time, oblivion remains unable to accumulate over the grave historic event and incapable to dump that tragedy, the trails and repercussions of which are still haunting the Palestinian people to this very moment, without history stopping for a while to renew the bleeding wound in the body of this question, since then until now.

IDF, Army of Shame

Sami Jamil Jadallah, Palestine Think Tank 5/22/2008
      Before there was the Israel Defense Forces "IDF" there were the Jewish terrorist groups in Mandated Palestine. Before there was state terrorism committed by an army of the state, IDF, there was Jewish terrorism and terrorists committing crimes and murder against Arabs, British and even Jews.
     Before the State of Israel became an independent state, Jewish terrorist organizations carried out a number of operations not so much different from those committed by so called Palestinian "terrorists". Moshe Sneh, the chief of Hagnah wrote a letter to Menachem Begin, head of the Irgun prompting him to carry out the bombing of the King David Hotel which took place on July 1946, killing 28 British, 41 Arabs, 17 Jews and 5 others. The terrorist walked in disguised as Arabs and unloaded 225 Kg of high explosive.

Journalist Anthony Shadid discusses Qatar talks

Ola Hajar, Electronic Lebanon, Electronic Intifada 5/22/2008
      As negotiations in Doha, Qatar take place between Lebanon’s political leaders in an effort to reach a settlement to the current internal conflict, Ola Hajar spoke with veteran journalist Anthony Shadid. Shadid spoke about the impact of US-driven policies in the Middle East within the context of the "war on terror" and their specific impact on Lebanon, and he also commented on the US position towards Hizballah’s role in Lebanese politics.
     ....Ola Hajar: Can you comment on the current situation in Lebanon and the political negotiations taking place in Qatar?
     Anthony Shadid: Lebanon’s current crisis connects not only to the war in 2006 but also dates back to the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Political turmoil in Lebanon is always complicated, as the turmoil or the national crisis is so heavily linked to powers outside the country including Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the US and France.

Crises at Several Levels

Ghassan Khatib, MIFTAH 5/22/2008
      The recent statement attributed to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in which he declared his intention to resign at the end of this year if the current negotiations do not succeed in reaching agreement came as a surprise neither to the Palestinian people nor observers.
     In fact, the Palestinian leadership has been one of the main victims of the Annapolis process. This is because this process was designed to suit the political needs of the American and Israeli sides at the expense of the interests of the Palestinian leadership.
     US President George W. Bush--who proved in his recent speeches at the Israeli parliament and in Sharm al-Sheikh that he comes from a rather religious fundamentalist background--needed a political process to give the impression that he is trying to make peace in the Middle East. At the same time, however, it is clear that he is not actually interested in making peace, since that would require the kind of political pressure on Israel that he is simply not prepared to exert.

Israeli and US Death Squads Infesting the World

Stuart Littlewood, Middle East Online 5/20/2008
      Stuart Littlewood considers the increasing use of assassination by the US and Israel, and reports that Israeli murder squads have been authorized to enter ‘friendly’ countries, including Britain, and kill enemies of the state of Israel.
Some readers will remember the 1969 film, “The Assassination Bureau”, a tongue-in-cheek romp based on Jack London’s unfinished novel. The setting is the turn of the century a hundred years ago, a fanciful time for regime change and the purging of corrupt monarchs and cruel tyrants. The bureau’s hit team is for hire provided that Ivan Dragomiloff, founder and mastermind, deems the targeted killing "socially justifiable" and there’s proof of the candidate’s misdeeds.
     Eventually, however, the moral rectitude of the enterprise gives way to financial greed, and the day comes when the bureau accepts a mission to eradicate an unnamed but prominent public figure. The fee is paid in advance, proof supplied, job accepted, then the name is revealed. The target is Dragomiloff himself. The Assassination Bureau cannot go back on its word and Dragomiloff finds himself pitted against the killing machine he himself created and perfected.